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Work-in-Progress: Emotion and Intuition in Engineering Students’ Ethical Decision Making and Implications for Engineering Ethics Education

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

October 19, 2019

Conference Session

Engineering Ethics Division Technical Session - Ethics Decision-Making

Tagged Division

Engineering Ethics

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Dayoung Kim Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Dayoung Kim is a Ph.D. student in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. Her current research interest includes engineering ethics, curriculum development for socially-responsible engineers, and cultural studies for engineers in a global context. She earned her B.S. degree in Chemical Engineering at Yonsei University, South Korea in 2017.

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Brent K. Jesiek Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Dr. Brent K. Jesiek is an Associate Professor in the Schools of Engineering Education and Electrical and Computer Engineering at Purdue University. He also leads the Global Engineering Education Collaboratory (GEEC) research group, and is the recipient of an NSF CAREER award to study boundary-spanning roles and competencies among early career engineers. He holds a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Michigan Tech and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Science and Technology Studies (STS) from Virginia Tech. Dr. Jesiek draws on expertise from engineering, computing, and the social sciences to advance understanding of geographic, disciplinary, and historical variations in engineering education and practice.

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Recent research in moral psychology suggests that people often rely on emotion and intuition to make moral judgments, rather than reasoning, which engineering ethics education has mainly focused on. In parallel with such findings, studies in the scholarship of engineering ethics have emphasized the importance of emotional capacities of engineers and considered how to incorporate emotional factors into the ethics education of engineering students. Despite growing interest in the importance of emotional aspects of engineering ethics education, however, there has been lack of empirical research addressing the relationship between ethics and emotion. In particular, it is not known how emotion and intuition actually influence ethical decision-making of engineering students.

In this work-in-progress paper, we present preliminary results of our exploratory investigation about how emotion and intuition permeate engineering students’ experiences with ethics. We analyzed 11 interview transcripts, which had been collected as part of a larger longitudinal, mixed-method research project with engineering students. We conducted an inductive thematic analysis and found that students experienced a wide range of moral emotions from positive to negative depending on the situation. We also found evidence of students’ use of intuition when they made ethical decisions. We anticipate the findings of this study will help engineering educators and researchers design better engineering ethics courses by considering the emotions and intuitions of engineering students, which have previously been ignored but may influence ethical decision-making.

Kim, D., & Jesiek, B. K. (2019, June), Work-in-Progress: Emotion and Intuition in Engineering Students’ Ethical Decision Making and Implications for Engineering Ethics Education Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--33666

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